In 2010 I was optimistic. My daughter was 11 and starting a new school. My parents were living downstairs in our two-family house which we bought together and renovated to make it perfect. They were both older, but I was there to help. It had been six years since my breast cancer occurred. Life was pretty darn good. I did however have a weird, sporadic, intense pain in my chest … it would act up if I had lifted something too heavy. When it cropped up, the pain was staggering … coughing or laughing hurt so much that I’d fall to my knees. The episodes of pain would last for several days and then go away. I saw various doctors and none could find a cause.
In May of 2010 I started dating a lovely man. I swear I could see magic sparkles floating in the air around him. He was divorced and had two daughters close to my own daughter’s age. We had a lot in common … we saw each other regularly … we made each other laugh constantly. It was fun, and I started to really adore him. Let’s call him “Twit.”
On September 16, a Thursday, I had my annual checkup at DF. Mammogram, MRI, appointment w Dr Eric. Eric said that day, ya know, you don’t need to see me each year any more, you’re doing great. You can just check in with Jen once a year from now on. All was in order.
A day later, on Friday night, my daughter and I were eating dinner and my phone rang. The caller id said Dana Farber, and Eric was on the other end of the line. Your Mammogram was normal, but the MRI showed a spot of ‘activity’. It is most likely that your breast cancer has spread to the bone, to your sternum (where my recent, staggering pain had been).
My head was spinning. What are the chances that it is NOT cancer? Very small. If it IS cancer can it be cured? No. We went through the logistics of an upcoming biopsy (Jen will set up a biopsy for you early next week) and then Eric said, This is not an immediate ‘death sentence’, … you can live for MANY YEARS with this.
I had to go back into the kitchen and explain to my daughter the conversation she had just overheard. I emphasized the MANY YEARS part of it. Later that evening when her dad picked her up, I gave him the same update, again trotting out the words MANY YEARS in front of our daughter.
As soon as I was alone, I called Twit. Twit had a PhD in pharmacology and had worked in the cancer field. He knew stuff! He would know what to say. After I relayed my devastating news, he had in fact very little to say. Disappointingly little. Over the next week I had many appointments, and Twit brought me to my biopsy (after which he dropped me at home and skedaddled). A week later was the follow-up appointment to learn the biopsy results … I went alone. That evening Twit didn’t even call. I tried calling/texting him of course … no answer. Next day again, no contact. He was starting the ghosting process (although the term ghosting didn’t exist then). After some email pleading on my part, Twit emailed that he’d call later that week. My therapist at the time, who knew the whole saga, said, there’s no way he’s calling you later! I knew she was right. I was dealing with shattering, life altering health news, and the man I thought I was so close to was disappearing … ghosting me. It was SO wrong. I’ve heard it’s also not uncommon. I was completely, in every sense, powerless. So I used words and took care of one piece of the mess. I sent the following email to Twit:
Your insensitivity is as stunning as your cowardice.
No need to call.
(Dear readers: if any of you ever need a similar missive, you are welcome to use it. )
Certainly never heard back from Twit after that email. Luckily, I have a whole gang of incredible, wonderful, caring, and capable friends, each with their individual ways of helping. They have supported me through the weeks, months, and years of blood tests, biopsies, clinical trials, chemo, butt shots, and hospitalizations, …, and got me though the ups and downs that accompany all of that. Most importantly these friends kept me laughing throughout. For me, laughing at situations, laughing at myself, laughing at absurdity — is the only way to stay sane, and to have any sort of joy.
P.S. A favorite example of a friend to the rescue is Wendy. When I told her about being ghosted, she had immediate advice! … well you should definitely go back to online dating! Right away! I said, even with cancer? YES and your tag line can be: Commitment Phobe? I’m Your Gal!